When we encounter some of the really difficult people in our lives, we need to remind ourselves that God has not called us to simply tolerate these folks; He has called us to love them.
The other day I was watching quality Christian television with my daughters. I’m not certain they were paying attention to the cartoon that was playing, but I sure was. Oh, how convicting that program was to me! Depicted were two different ant colonies. One colony was comprised of strong, simple black ants who worked hard and took life pretty seriously. They had lived in the garden for a long time and were very well established there. The other colony was comprised of strange looking red ants, who suddenly moved into the beautiful garden, without notice. The black ants were furious! How dare someone move into their garden without their permission? Without hesitation, the black ants sent their biggest and strongest warrior out to declare war on the red ants.
Sounding familiar to a situation in our own lives? Read on…
Halfway to the red ant colony, the black ant was stopped by a booming voice from the sky. God called down to him and asked what he was doing. Indignant, the black ant informed God he was going to do away with his adversaries.
God interjected, asking the black ant to love them.
“Love them?” the black ant replied. “Surely you must be jesting. They’re obnoxious and they play their music too loudly! They’re funny looking and they don’t do things the same way we do. Why should I love them?”
Tenderly, God told the frustrated little ant again that He desired for the black ants to love their neighbors.
The black warrior ant continued on to the red ant colony, but this time, instead of declaring war, he welcomed them to the garden. Surprised, the red ants didn’t quite know what to do. This was not the kind of visit they had been expecting from the black ants. They too had been ready for war. Afterall, the garden was a beautiful place. Why shouldn’t it belong to them? Surely they were more deserving. Then questions moved to more practical topics, such as the ability of the garden to feed both colonies, and discussions about space for growth. Would there always be as much to eat as there was now? Would the garden continue to hold both colonies as they grew over the years? So many uncertainties. What should they do? They talked amongst themselves and developed a “wait and see” attitude. Whatever the black ants did would determine their next course of action.
As the black warrior ant returned home, the red ants began playing their bag pipes, as was their usual way at this time of day. This sound was irritating to the black ant colony and their tempers flared up. This was not their way. Immediately, the ants discussed how to handle this situation. Surely the red ants were up to no good and must be stopped at once! The black warrior ant (who had previously visited with the red ants) sat idly by as the conversations moved from war to a more peaceful idea – tolerating the strange ant colony. After all, the blank ants were dignified and didn’t need to stoop to the same lower level that the immature red ants had stooped to. No, the black ants would hold their heads high and walk upright with pride, doing what they believed was the right thing – the godly thing.
God saw all that happened. His eyes never turned away from the garden. He knew the nature of these little ants. He saw them tolerating their neighbors in person, but talking badly about them behind their backs. The female black ants would gossip about the red ants in private. The male black ants would make fun of the odd looking kilts the red ants wore, in private of course. No one wanted to hurt the red ants feelings by saying these things to their faces! The gossip mill grew until all the black ants could talk about anymore was how odd and inappropriate those red ants were. Still, nothing was said directly to the red ants, so those mature and godly black ants were able to sleep well at night and hold their heads high in the morning. They were just following God’s Word and doing what He’d asked.
That was what He’d asked, right?
Some time later, God asked the now sullen black warrior ant “What is the matter, my child? Why are you so blue?”
Black warrior ant replied that it was hard work tolerating those weird red ants. It simply wasn’t in his nature to do so. Couldn’t God just change him and make the whole situation easier?
God quickly reminded him that He didn’t ask the black ants to simply tolerate the red ants, but to love them!
Black warrior ant asked God just how he should love these annoying creatures. God reminded him that he already knew what to do. Now it was time to put the plan into action.
Taking this information back to his colony, black ant warrior then began to look for the good in the red ants, sharing his insights with his fellow brothers and sisters. The good feelings grew and were infectious! Soon, all the black ants began to praise God for their neighbors, those blessed red ants. The black ants began to love their neighbors, helping them with their work load. But it was not to last, as word soon got out that the red ants were planning a revolt. The black ants began to lose heart because by this point, they were truly loving their neighbors and had yet to taste the fruit from all of their hard work. The red ants now wanted to kick the black ants out of the garden! What were they to do?
God reminded the black ants once again – “Love your neighbors.”
Eventually, with much patience, prayer and perseverance, the black ants were able to convince the red ants that they were all welcome in the garden, that there was plenty for them all to eat and drink there. In time, the black ants were able to minister to the red ants who at one time, were hostile to the Lord, and to them. Through their hard work- peace and harmony reigned through the land, because they finally obeyed God’s command to simply love their neighbors.
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31 ESV